March 2017

42 APAC / March 2017 , “Truck has broken down. It will arrive Wednesday. All good,” he explains. We don’t put the roof on until Wednesday morning so we have some flexibility. Strategy Every hour we rotate the tasks so no one gets bored. The group in the hot sun moves to a shaded area where the thatch walls are being made. We work hard and there is fun and laughter. A radio appears and soon we are singing and loving the joy of this moment. I move from group to group working as hard as I can. Apart from a mean talent for Karaoke it is apparent to everyone that I also lack any useful manual skills. But I can encourage and assist and I keep at it until I stumble on Emily from HR who is clearly struggling. Sitting on her own sanding a wooden beam she complained; “They should have told me it was going to be this hot. I would never have come here”. Not quite sure how to deal with it I sit with her sanding the beam. Soon we are chatting and I learn that she suffers from mild anxiety triggered by large groups and unusual situations. HR works for her as so much of the work is one on one or facing a screen. I ask myself the obvious question, “do I really need this issue in my roll-out team?” No point worrying now, I will deal with it later. Human resources The entire family works with us and they are so lovely. I am reminded of something I always forget; people who have the best of everything are not as happy as people who make the best of everything. I have to try to remember that when I get home! By knock-off time we are hot, sweaty and very satisfied with the cleared site. It is uplifting in a way that I cannot describe to you. Later that night during debrief with Rachel I mention my concerns about Emily. “She may not be much use here”, I insisted. “You don’t always get the team you want” Rachel countered. “But I have to move her off the project team before I get back”, I blurted out. “Maybe so, but it won’t hurt you to work on getting the best from people regardless of where they start from”, with a common sense that annoyed my rising panic. “We are where we are”, Rachel replied, somewhat enigmatically. “She just needs some leadership. Who are the others that are close to her?” Soon we were sitting on a bamboo floor talking to the three work partners of our anxious volunteer. Rachel reminded them why we were all there and how important it was that everyone pulled together if we were to deliver. She gained their commitment to work closely with our anxious colleague to help her focus on the task we had all come together for. Leadership By Wednesday morning we were halfway there, tired, sore with cuts and bruises and some flagging spirits. Work rotation meant that people developed a diverse set of skills. A few were really proud thatch makers while others had become great at the two-man saw. Three days ago, who would have thought? By late morning the tin had still not arrived. Rachel had rescheduled other activities to keep us progressing but Damdin’s smile was not quite so bright. By lunchtime the sun was beating down and everyone was slumped in the shade. Damdin explained that the truck was unlikely to arrive before three o’clock. “Let’s head down to the dam and have a swim,” came the call from the sales rep at the back of the group. “Yeah, let’s do that. We can finish the roof tomorrow when the tin is here”, chorused marketing. The dam sounded so inviting. I have laughed, danced and played games with this group for three days now and I am really fond of them. A few hours splashing in the cool water sounds like heaven to me. “If you do the roof tomorrow you will not finish this home. You will leave here with an unfinished project” cautioned Rachel. An unease settled on the building site. Like a herd of thirsty horses that had sniffed water, they were ready to break for the dam. From the side, and tentatively at first, I heard, “I don’t want to go home leaving a half-finished house”. It was Emily from HR sitting with friends. “That’s not why we came here. We won’t get a chance to come back and finish it.” The spell of the moment was broken. I felt a tinge of shame. The urge for the dam subsided. We stayed in the shade until 3.00 o’clock and waited for the tin. Results I won’t ever forget that Friday afternoon. The parents had purchased small coloured scarfs for each of us. We crowded into the little house we had built and sat on the bare floor. Each of us were gifted a scarf from the family. I am not easily moved to tears but I cried. Who wouldn’t? Monday at 8.00am we sit in an air-conditioned office ready for Day One of the project. With smiling faces, positive attitudes and Emily with her scarf in front of her. We have a belief that we will knock those stretch targets to the boundary. There is a power in teams that really can change the world. You just need some leadership. “Reach Out Volunteers, changing the world one village at a time.” If you need to build a great team quickly and want to enhance your corporate responsibility outlook get in contact with us.

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